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24 Aug, 2007 08:26

Russia's rocket girls

Peter the Great’s Military Academy, one of Russia's largest, has waived, for the first time, traditions and rules, and opened its doors to twenty girl cadets. It's the only female platoon there in the strategic section.

Competition for the places was fierce as for each vacancy four girls applied. 

If those who succeeded against the odds have any complaints about being in the military, they keep it to themselves.

They are now among the few who know what Russia's strategic missiles look like.

Their commanding officers joke that, like in a monastery, it’s their last chance to think their decision over before they take the oath.

Maria Novikova says she doesn’t grumble, but she just can’t get used to waking up at 0600, sleeping in barracks, and wearing a uniform.

Like many of her fellow-students Maria is a straight-A student, her dad is a military officer, and she used to love roller-skating.

“Some two months ago I couldn’t even imagine that I would be where I am now. Military uniform and so on, you know. It seemed to me I would never do that,” said Maria Novikova, cadet.

After graduating from the Academy, Masha will be a programmer-engineer. Her job will have nothing to do with firing a rifle at targets, but still she has to go through a soldier’s basic training.

Missile women live in the Academy in the same conditions as missile men. Some of the more feminine routines have had to be abandoned.

“Normally, it took me an hour to make-up. Now I’ll never be late for a date, I've got used to doing my make-up in sixty seconds!” Maria Novikova explained.